I Have Problems With Rogue One

The reviews for Rogue One are in, and they're near-universally positive — including our own. Less the broad caper of The Force Awakens and more a ground-level exploration of some known Star Wars landmarks, the film delivers a careful balance of freshness and nostalgia — but I don't believe it's flawless.

While there's plenty to love, something's been gnawing at me since seeing Rogue One over the weekend, and I'm not alone. Hear me out before you start leaving me death threats in the comments. (And you're used to this by now but...)

The original trilogy was about heroic rebels trying to topple the (objectively) evil Empire. The good-est good guy is basically a monk; the baddest bad dude murders a bunch of people and has a face like a sun-deprived raisin. Cut and dry. In Rogue One, the Lawful Good Rebel Alliance of A New Hope is shown to have made some morally dubious choices in order to try to free the galaxy from the Emperor. But did they need to be such jerks?

Jyn Erso begins her heroic journey only after the Rebels kidnap, interrogate, and strong-arm her into helping them find her father. She's eventually joined by Captain Cassian Andor, a man whose first scene involves the coldblooded murder of a hapless informant, the latest in a long line of immoral acts on behalf of the Rebellion. Then a high-ranking Rebel officer orders him to assassinate Jyn's father Galen, even though the complete destruction of Jedha City is all the proof they need that Galen's work is done and the Death Star is up and running — killing him will achieve nothing. Why?

More gallingly, when Jyn and Cassian tell the Alliance about the dangers of the Death Star, and that they need to stage an assault on Scarif, the Rebels decide to sit this battle out, at least in part because Jyn is a "criminal." (Hey, guys — you're part of an armed revolt. Pot meet space kettle.) It's not until Jyn and a few other Rebels rebel against the Rebellion (cough) and attack Scarif on their own that the rest of the Alliance is guilted into joining in.

But that doesn't change the fact that the heroic faction of the original trilogy are too worried about their own necks to even try to save the galaxy at first. Narratively, what's the point? The big battle scene happens anyway. If the Rebels had agreed to attack Scarif, Jyn's crew could still have staged the exact same secret mission. The only thing that would have been lost is the gnawing feeling that the Rebellion aren't particularly righteous or capable.

But Rogue One was created to give us a "gritty" look at the Star Wars universe, which means showing the Rebel Alliance has a dark side, and the war against the Empire had some brutal costs for the "regular" people fighting it (i.e., the people who aren't larger-than-life heroes like Luke, Leia, and Han). Jyn is forced to watch her father and her adoptive father get killed in the span of an hour. Two full cities of people are annihilated by the Death Star's laser. Before being evaporated by said laser, Jedha City is the target of bomb-wielding terrorists. And, of course, we're forced to watch the entire Rogue One team die, one by one.

Sure, the Star Wars movies have never been strangers to killing characters, but Rogue One's dedication to watching its characters die is relentless, and usually to no great advancement of the plot. Donnie Yen's character is a blind badass who believes in the Force; he dies flipping a single switch. Defector and erstwhile Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook is blown up while plugging in some kind of data cable. Baze Malbus employs a laser chaingun and backpack full of space bullets to kill about five Stormtrooper mooks before buying the farm on Scarif. Most egregious is the death of Saw Gerrera, who allows himself to be vaporized for no good reason.

Watching an ensemble cast we wanted to root for be reduced to cannon fodder could have been heartbreaking. But we know almost nothing about these characters! Chirrut (Yen) is pious and used to guard a temple. Baze has a big gun. Cassian has done some bad stuff and is handsome. Bodhi is resistant to truth-eating brain slugs. Limited information makes it really hard to care if they meet an untimely death and K-2SO, the reprogrammed Imperial droid, was the only character I was sad to see go. (But we still don't know how Cassian got his hands on or reprogrammed an Imperial droid!)

Contrastingly, the motivations of the film's main antagonist, Orson Krennic, are perfectly clear. He's a petty bureaucrat, navigating a bloated and corrupt system to get ahead for his own ego. Simple, effective, and far less convoluted than Jyn's reasons for joining the Alliance.

The fact that no one from Rogue One appears in any later film always implied from the outset that we're in for a suicide mission taken up by brave but expendable spies to assist a worthy cause. By undermining the moral certitude of the Rebellion's and dispatching those soldier so wastefully, I wonder if the particulars of this mission weren't best left to the imagination.


Comments

    I don't really see how the rag-tag misfit Rebel Alliance of the original trilogy are Lawful Good; by definition I'd say that armed insurrection is Chaotic.

    at least in part because Jyn is a "criminal."

    It was never in part because Jyn was a criminal, it was because her father was Galen Urso, the designer of the Death Star, they didn't know if she could be truly trusted. The idea they wouldn't trust a criminal is absurd given half the Alliance was made out of such people.

    Rogue One presented a fractured alliance that didn't know what it wanted to be, it was made of scum, criminals and the elite, who had to come together under one banner. That was a huge point near the end that was made, yet noone wanted to stand together against the Empire as equals. It was only *when* the mission from Cassian and co. went ahead that the Alliance saw it had a chance, that it could fight side by side, with a chance, at that point, the Rebel Alliance truly formed as a cohesive threat against the Empire and stood a chance.

      Always find your comments entertaining

      QFT

        Awwwww ta

        *Edit* After my shitty last few weeks, you have no idea how much a little comment like that means to read, even from (to me) an anonymous person :) Thank you! :)

        Last edited 27/12/16 3:46 pm

          Don't worry he's not the only one. I often come to make a comment only to see you've already done a better job than I would have :-P

    The Rebellion isn't a cohesive group... its three factions.
    * The Rebels - The agents on the ground and in the ships who are playing both a cold-war intelligence game and a guerrilla warfare campaign, and that gets dirty with all the assassination, thefts, and sabotage.
    * The Human Senators - The inner human planets of the empire and pretty much protected at the early stage of the empire from the anti-alien fascist regime presented by the Sith, very few non-aliens in the Imperial Forces. The human planets know its wrong, and expect the empire to turn darker but they are more interested in not fighting but using the Rebellion intelligence assets to acquire "evidence" for Senate Inquiries to shut down the empire from within with so very little to lose they are easily threatened by the Death Stars existence to surrender. (which is nothing more than an annoyance to the Empire when they blow up a senators home planet and then abolishes the whole senate).
    * The Subjugated Aliens - The empire has been enslaving and persecuting alien races on en-mass, removing them from the senate, blockading planets and calling martial law on those planets... such as the Wookies and the Mon Calamari. For them its a freedom fight and with everything to lose they are easily threatened by the Death Stars existence to fight for survival.

    I just hope the author isnt trying to be different for the sake of being different..

    Sure there are always plot holes and pieces of lore left out.. i mean afterall it is a movie and it has to fit in 2 hours or so..

    But i did get attached to all the characters.. even bodhi.. sad to see them all go out even as martyrs..

    Im glad we have a starwars movie where the droids arent completely useless in combat though.. i am also glad we have a movie where the characters arent totally reliant on a flippin OP jedi

    Last edited 27/12/16 2:19 pm

    While it wasn't the giant mess of TFA, it still was weak in spots, and most of the jokes fell flat as well.
    Not as good as the PT.

    Does the author think the characters of the Star Wars universe have seen the movies ahead of time Spaceballs style? How you think any of the characters could have acted with better foresight about things they completely didn't know is just baffling.

    a man whose first scene involves the coldblooded murder of a hapless informant

    Who was freaking out and acting like a complete liability. When the Stormtroopers approached, he could have been captured and interrogated.

    Then a high-ranking Rebel officer orders him to assassinate Jyn's father Galen, even though the complete destruction of Jedha City is all the proof they need that Galen's work is done and the Death Star is up and running

    Running? You mean rumoured to be running. Especially when those rumours conflict with its description of a Planet Killer. They had no way of knowing if it was actually completed to Galen's spec and bases like these would arguably need maintenance, and he's the most qualified.

    Jyn is a "criminal." (Hey, guys — you're part of an armed revolt. Pot meet space kettle.)

    See @Weresmurf comment above. Also just because it was an armed revolt didn't mean every member of the Rebel Alliance were murderous criminals. It was made pretty clear they were made up of various factions with their own interests and ways of contributing - from military to commercial to political.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the heroic faction of the original trilogy are too worried about their own necks to even try to save the galaxy at first. Narratively, what's the point? The big battle scene happens anyway.

    Oh yeah lets just stage a mission thought up by someone you don't trust and based on sketchy non-information that has no evidence will work. It could have been a massive trap. The battle happens anyway because only the rebels that cared to believe in this desperate chance showed up.

    Donnie Yen's character is a blind badass who believes in the Force; he dies flipping a single switch. Defector and erstwhile Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook is blown up while plugging in some kind of data cable. Baze Malbus employs a laser chaingun and backpack full of space bullets to kill about five Stormtrooper mooks before buying the farm on Scarif. Most egregious is the death of Saw Gerrera, who allows himself to be vaporized for no good reason.

    They all sacrifice themselves to achieve the mission. Each one performing a necessary task. Those tasks are arguably contrived but it's not much different from the strange minutia of any military mission. I don't know how it's missed that this film is inspired by early heroic WW2 war films where daring soldiers complete a perilous mission solely for the war-effort at the risk of their lives.

    and didn't you see how disabled Saw was? The able-bodied people barely escaped the surface.

    But we know almost nothing about these characters!

    You knew everything you needed to. Show, don't tell.
    Chirrut guards a temple dedicated to Kyver Crystals: they power a Jedi's lightsaber and also the reactors of the Death Star. He clearly didn't like the empires mining of them but could do little as he was blind. His uncanny senses and monk-sensibilities made him the closest thing to a Jedi and tied the teams connection to the good-side of the force.
    Baze is clearly the Chewbacca of this film. A quiet protector who shares a deep bond with his charge. He's the heavy lifter and heavy weapons, the reason so many others survive. He's clearly not the brains of the outfit and is brash and foolhardy.
    Cassian practically has his entire character spelled out in his and others lines. Same with Jyn. They're main characters. They lost their families and would do anything, even things they might regret, for the cause they believe in. Their entire relationship and character development is about how much they're willing to believe.
    Bodhi is a good pilot that knows his craft. He has a tremendous weight on his shoulders. A defector, challenging his own beliefs and sent away with information determining the fate of the galaxy. He's scared and knows that nobody likes him because he is both enemy and traitor. He relies on his new-found comrades to give himself confidence and absolution.
    K2S0 is clearly just a robot owned by the respective party. You don't need to know where he came from. How is it odd that a rebel faction would capture an enemy droid and reprogram it for their own needs? Remember the collective confusion when it was revealed C3P0 was built by Anakin?

    Simple, effective, and far less convoluted than Jyn's reasons for joining the Alliance.

    What? She was brought up in the alliance by Saw, and then left it on her own. Then after all her parents are dead she's motivated by revenge and a need for justice. This is also to align our desires as the audience to see the bad guys lose. Just like in Episode IV, Luke helps the Rebels go and blow up the Death Star because they blew up Alderann, killed Lukes aunt and uncle, and killed Obi-Wan.

    Last edited 27/12/16 4:33 pm

    Most egregious is the death of Saw Gerrera, who allows himself to be vaporized for no good reason.

    The wheezing, battle-weary half-cyborg guy who needs a hit of oxygen every few minutes? "Save the rebellion, save the dream!"? Gee, I don't get why he let the character he helped raise escape with vital info, instead of getting everyone exploded waiting for his crippled butt to get to the ship.

    I thought the nit-picking over the two Cantina arseholes appearing, or "Saw Gerrera?! Is that supposed to be like Che Guevera?! Damn Commies..." crap was reaching, but then I saw this.

    I just didn't like the bit where she had a big heroic speech in the rebel alliance chamber. Felt out of character and like it was probably part of the reshoot to make it more of a generic star wars movie. The rest I liked.

      Chances are that's exactly what it was, given something like allegedly 60% of the movie was reshot.

      Last edited 27/12/16 10:04 pm

    I can accept the poorly written motivations and disposable characters but I can't accept that the film wasn't edited like, didn't sound like, and didn't visually resemble a Star Wars film.

    My problems with Rogue One.

    * digital Tarkin wasn't good enough. I'm sure it's an impressive technical marvel putting a dead actor into a movie, but you could still tell and it was so distracting. Why give a dead actor a role in a film greater than a cameo? Either use a look-a-like or give the role to an existing/new character.

    * speaking of Tarkin and Vader, the presence of OT characters, purely for nostalgic reasons, holds the main characters back. Shoving OT characters in there reminds you of the insignificance of the actual characters of the movie.

    * Killing all the main characters felt a little cheap. It was less like a suicide mission and more like how you cull a bunch of colleagues from your Facebook friends list when you leave a job cause they're no longer important moving forward. I don't get why it happened. It didn't dramatically increase the emotional investment and it's not like those characters' survival contradicts the existing lore. I would have loved to see some future adventures of that team.

      I think they involved Tarkin so much because it became clear that he had a much more pivotal role in the events unfolding (as General and command of the Death Star). He had a minor role in the original trilogy but then the Extended Universe fleshed him out a lot more. I know the EU is meant to non-canon now but I think Disney is happy to borrow from stories closely related to the original plot.

      Also not bothered by the inclusion of OT characters. I feel like their inclusion in TFA is much more for nostalgia than in this one because the setting is years apart. This movie is literally a bridge between everything eps 1-6 and would barely get away with not mentioning the likes of Vader. Not only that but it was good to actually see Vader being a badass without the opposition of a good Jedi. One of the whole messages of this story was that the Empire was really as strong and as dangerous as implied.

      Actually the characters survival is unfortunately due to the story's placement and would contradict the lore. I don't see how the Rogue One team would not be relevant for the plots of eps 4-6. Why would you let the likes of Han Solo (a sketchy smuggler) help in your mission against the Death Star, when you could also send in a squad of proven veterans that were instrumental in uncovering its weakness? They'd have to mentioned or appear, in fact if you watched all the movies in order, it would be weird to never see them again - like they disappeared into thin air. I'd take them being being obviously dead over that.

    To say what I think a lot of people are scared to: if they didn't spend so much time throwing bones to fans in the form of long darth Vader scenes and spelling out the obvious to bridge Rogue One and A New Hope, there would have been more screen time to be spent on fleshing out our wonderful RO characters.

      I think they spent just enough time doing all of those things. I didn't feel bogged down in nostalgia nor left wanting for extra character development.

      I don't know... Star Wars always takes a few movies to flesh out characters. Suddenly building up this crew would have made it too obvious they were going to go Wild Bunch on the cast, at least to me.

      (I'm still bummed Space Zatoichi didn't make it, though.)

    I had one serious issue with this Movie. Loved it to bits but Vader just didn't sound right.
    It was a real surprise to me when i found out it actually was James doing the voice. I really hope they re-record those scenes for the bluray release.
    But oh man how good was it to see him kick some ass in the end!

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